Imagine a North Harmony with more commercial development in Stow, Ashville and the Stedman Corners area.
Think, if you will, about the possibilities for additional development on Main Street in Bemus Point while making it easier for both car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. How much better would the visitor experience to one of Chautauqua Lake's most beautiful villages be enhanced with a history trail, public restrooms and other pedestrian amenities?
Paint a picture in your head of the town of Ellicott with a more balanced mix of commercial businesses, including recognizable chain stores and local businesses, with additional development along Interstate 86 on Fluvanna Avenue, North Main Street and in Falconer. Imagine the waterfront development along Chautauqua Lake that could make the southern end of Chautauqua Lake as big a tourist attraction as Bemus Point or Mayville.
Those are among the visions included in comprehensive plans completed in the last few years by the town of North Harmony and Ellicott and the village of Bemus Point. Jamestown is in the midst of implementing several such plans in its downtown area and neighborhoods. Chautauqua County completed a much broader Chautauqua 20/20 plan in 2011. Now, the town of Busti will have a plan by sometime this spring.
It would be easier if such planning wasn't handled in a piecemeal fashion. But, given the resistance to mergers, planning for the future is necessary. Such plans are necessary to provide a framework to build the county, city, towns and villages in which area residents want to live. Given the county's overall trend of declining population and tax base, it is important local officials have a plan to make the area a more desirable place to live with a vital economy and the infrastructure necessary to bring potential employers to the area.
Why, then, is the area not already what we want it to be? Surely generations of leaders before this one realized the value of vision and creating a plan to realize their visions. As is often the case, it comes down to money. Bringing those wonderful visions and ideas to life ultimately requires funding - an item often not discussed in comprehensive plans except in range ideas like high, medium and low.
Jamestown has foundations and a Community Development Block Grant allocation to help with the funding problem. Towns and villages don't have such resources. The village of Celoron tried to find money for its waterfront redevelopment projects through the Western New York Economic Development Council, but the village wasn't awarded any funding.
Area foundations can help to a degree with grants or by hosting endowment funds that can help pay for projects, but a larger pool of money must be created at the state or regional level to help communities implement the items in these plans. Until there is an easier way for communities to pay for infrastructure or other improvements in their comprehensive plans, it will be impossible for the Chautauqua County of the future to be the Chautauqua County we hope it will be.